Sunday, May 17, 2015

Our Story (11): Abused? No Way, Not Me

“Most abusive men put on a charming face for their communities, creating a sharp split
between their public image and their private treatment of women and children.”
- Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men -

(continuing from last time...)

When I went to my parent’s home to pick up my baby girl after school the next day, I discovered that my ex had gone to their place after he’d been released from jail that morning. Of course, he downplayed the story making it sound like we’d just had a little argument and I had overreacted. My parents were shocked that police had been called and he’d been taken into custody, and because they had no idea what had been going on in our home for years, they said to me “Well, you know how he is. He has a bit of a temper but he’s not a bad guy. And if he gets a record for this, it may cost him his job.” The last part was the driving force for his visit to them. Fear of losing his high-status position.

In all the years I’d been with my ex, not they or anyone else knew my story. I kept it a secret. Why? Because I wondered what was wrong with me. Because I was convinced that I was usually at fault, if not always. And mostly, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. My ex was very well-liked by friends and colleagues. His public image was impeccable. He had a high-paying, prominent position in a large company. He was sociable and charming and fun and ambitious and generous with time and money. He was everyone’s friend. Except mine. And if I ever hinted at a grievance, I was obviously overreacting. Hypersensitive. Too hard on him. Impatient. Demanding. And obviously not very appreciative of this great guy I was lucky enough to have. As if he was doing me a favour by being with me.

So I didn't fault my parents for being charmed by him. And I certainly understood how they could be manipulated emotionally by his smooth talking. After all, I’d lived that for years and was still living it. All they’d ever known was that occasionally we argued, nothing more. And didn't every couple do that, anyways?

And the guilt-inducing began with my parents and then moved to my older daughter who came home after that first weekend confused and upset that daddy was so sad because mommy was being mean to him. And that daddy might not be able to see her the next weekend if no one drove him there. Because he didn't have a car, mommy took it away. Mommy was the bad one, daddy was a victim.

For two weeks I stood my ground, fighting what I’d been conditioned to believe for years: that I was the one with the problem. That I made him treat me this way. Brought all this trouble onto myself. That I was selfish and ungrateful, and worst of all, unbalanced. Because no one had ever told me otherwise. Because the idea of emotional abuse never occurred to me. And that is why in all the posts I've written so far, not once does the word abuse appear anywhere.

My girls gave me so much strength.
But all that was about to change when I went to the police station two weeks later to drop the charges. I was convinced that it must be me must be me must be me. I invited these troubles with my unreasonableness. And when I parked my car outside the station that day, I sat there for awhile feeling overwhelmed with guilt and despair and regret. Afraid to go inside. What would I tell them? They’d see right through me. My ex had probably told them all about what a terrible person I was. And now they knew the truth. It’s me it’s me it’s me.

When I finally got up the nerve to go inside, I couldn't look the police officer who came to the counter in the eye as I said to him “There was an incident at my home a couple of weeks ago and...well...I've thought about it. And...um...I need to drop the charges. It was a mistake.”

I gave him the information needed and he walked to the back of the room where there were rows and rows of files. When he found what he was looking for, I watched him with my heart pounding in my chest as he read and read and read through the paperwork. Every now and then he’d glance over at me and then continue reading. He knows it’s me he knows it’s me he knows it’s me.

It felt like eternity until he finally put the file away and returned to the counter. And when he did, he said to me “I remember your husband very well. He was completely out of control when we brought him in. And it took a long time for him to calm down before we could speak to him. It was my partner who actually interviewed him.”

I know he was very upset.” I said, head bowed. “But I made him mad. I make him mad sometimes because I...I don’t always...cooperate. I'm...difficult to be with. I push his buttons.

At that, the officer leaned forward and said “Well, maybe he should get his buttons fixed.” My eyes filled with tears as he continued. “I've met many guys like this one. He is not a nice person. Nor is he a victim. He is a bully. Angry and aggressive. Entitled and demanding. Constantly blaming you and everyone else for his behaviour. Even when he breaks the law. It’s always your fault, no? He's pushed to these extremes, isn't he? And he wouldn't be this way if you behaved as you should, did what you were asked to, stopped talking back...am I right?

I was crying by now. Nodding. Ohmygod...yes yes yes...how does he know all this?

Have you ever heard of emotional abuse?” He asked. I shook my head no. Not because I didn't know what it was but because it just couldn't be that. No no no...it's impossible impossible impossible.

He reached underneath, pulled out a business card, placed it on the counter and slid it towards me. I didn't reach out for it right away. Instead, I looked up at him, finally made real eye contact and saw warmth and compassion, and best of all, understanding. He believes me he believes me he believes me.

Please call this lady and go see her. She will help you to understand everything better.” His voice matched his eyes. Kind and gentle and sympathetic. "You did nothing wrong. You are the victim. And you did the right thing when you had him arrested. Okay?"

Okay” I said and took the card. It was for a counselor.

By the way, you cannot drop the charges here. You can only do that when you go to court. In the meantime, make that appointment. Promise?

Yes

And I did go see her. And she did present the idea of emotional abuse to me. But I stopped the counseling after three sessions. Because my brain was still wired wrong and none of it made sense. I wasn't ready to accept that I’d been emotionally abused and manipulated and psychologically beaten down. No way would that happen to me. No way would I allow such a thing. No way no way no way no way.

I wasn’t ready to travel on the healthy path the police officer had pointed me towards when I met him because I was in denial. But his words continued to echo in my mind "You are the victim." Every day of the week. And when I finally began to understand - and accept - what that meant, a year and a half later, the denial was replaced by grief. The realization that sixteen years of my life had been spent this way sent me crashing so badly that I was in desperate need of help. That’s when I was finally ready to deal with the truth. And my journey of healing began.

To be continued... (click here)

29 comments:

  1. absolutely riveting, because this goes on all the time, and the women however educated and savvy, never realise that it is happenning to them... I lived for 23 years with a charming well educated person, and he was mentally abusive, but like you I thought it was always my fault for upsetting him.... well, I finally found the courage when my two sons, the fourth and fifth children stopped talking in the home, and would check the fridge for booze, to see if they could anticipate the kind of evening we all were going to have.. finally I said enough, and we got divorced.. thank goodness as it was ruining my sons lives, and those of their elder siblings.. now married second time to a much less dominant person, life is not bad again.. thank goodness I found the courage as you did.. Well done you, but god do I know how much guts that takes to put a stop to it.. thanks for sharing, it might help others to wake up and realise the truth.. all the best J

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    1. It is a very tough road and often it takes a very long time to change directions. Since you have experienced a similar situation, you totally get it. Those who haven't have no idea the emotional and psychological aspects of it. Good for you for taking back control of your life.

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  2. Martha, my heart goes out to you. You are so brave to share this here. So many people never see that they are the victims. That is how strong the effects of being bullied can be. It tears us apart.
    I understand that at first you were not ready to accept this and that you were the blame. It takes time and that is what you gave it.
    Congratulations! You have come through this stronger and wiser.
    It is a pleasure to know you.

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    1. Thanks, Jim! You are very kind. Yes, it does take time. Sometimes a very long time. But I'm so grateful that all this is in the past. Way WAY in the past!

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  3. This is monumental Martha........this is your story to help someone else......I'm sure someone will read this and agree.

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    1. There are so many similar (and much much worse) stories out there.

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  4. A watershed moment. You made this difficult decision on your own. Many do not get here.

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  5. It is amazing how hard it is to see the truth in the moment, and not because you don't know it, but because it is hard to believe that it is actually your story. It is amazing that he did not hurt your or the children, and that you were able to get out from under that abuse. A miracle really, and what a happy one. You are such a positive person, and forthright that this story does really feel like a lifetime away. It has made you stronger .... the silver lining. But what a nightmare to live through! Thank god for that policeman

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    1. My gosh...that policeman. I will never forget him. I think about him very often. He was the echo in my mind that eventually got me on the road to healing.

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  6. It is good you got to the point where you began to heal

    betty

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  7. You are like a book, that I cannot put down. Only you are not a book, you are even better.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Wonder Woman! This is just a sliver of stories. My gosh...I can write a thousand of them.

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    2. And you'd do it well, if you did. You're a natural.

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  8. I just got caught up, Martha. When I finished this post, I let out a big breath. I was so anxious for you all the way through. Your writing could help SO MANY women (and some men too). I was emotionally abused but couldn't call it that until the divorce had gone through years earlier. And this wasn't too long ago. I was in my forties. Our whole system - spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically - reacts to things as it's ready, on its own clock. And when we want to heal, healing happens...I'm so furious at him for the physical AND emotional abuse. He shoved you when you had your baby in your arms. What a beast.

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    1. Yes, we have to be ready to heal. I have a very positive attitude and I strive to be happy, so it was only a matter of time before I began to work on healing. It's been a very long time since all this happened but I remember it all like it was yesterday. And despite all this time, my ex will still insist that everything was my fault and that he was the victim. That's just how it is and I just don't care anymore.

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  9. WOW I had to go back and catch up on these posts. Unbelievable story of bullying and emotional abuse. That police officer was a Godsend! Although you weren't ready then, he put you on the right path. Your courageous story can help so many people. Have you ever counseled others?

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    1. That police officer was definitely a godsend. I bet he was great at his job!

      I once considered going into counseling but never committed myself to it. I'm thinking of volunteering my time at some point at a shelter. We will see.

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  10. I sent you a comment but too long, it wasnt accepted so i sent it from my outlook.com and hope to God it doesn't go anywhere public if it does could you please deleted, I know exactly what you went through girl xo

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    1. I will check my email. And don't worry, I will delete it if it goes public!

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  11. What a turbulent emotional time it was for you -- but Goddess bless that cop, the counsellor and you for having the courage to chip away at the rock of denial.

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    1. That cop was the best. I imagine he was (maybe still is) great at his job. And he seemed to have experience with women like me back then. He must have run across many before (and after) me. Yes, Goddess bless him! And the counselors (because there was more than one) who helped me find my way back.

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  12. I have a friend who strongly believes in angels, and she would say that policeman was an angel, Martha. How amazingly wonderful that he treated you the way he did! And he was right! Such an ordeal. Emotional abuse is insidious. Suddenly one day you find yourself tiptoeing around your home like you're walking on eggshells and wondering what is wrong with you and how did it happen. Again thank you for bravely sharing this story! Even if it gives me chills, it reminds me that you can overcome such things and make a good life for yourself and your children. That is the most important part of this story. Sending you big hugs!

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    1. Yes indeed! That police officer was definitely an angel. My goodness, the kindness in this man. He changed my life. It may have taken awhile for me to walk the path he pointed out but his compassion and calming tone and understanding got through to me. He reached me in a place where I was trapped. Somewhere along the way I had lost my way and he found me. I bet he dealt with many women like me. And may continue to do so if he hasn't retired by now. Thanks for the hugs! Those are always the best :)

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  13. He knows how to play the victim role well eh?! Emotional abuse is more painful than physical abuse sometimes - it lingers.

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    1. Yes, it certainly lingers. But it doesn't house to move in and stay forever. If you really want it, you can have it evicted. It takes time but it can be done.

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  14. I've had a family member give me years of emotional abuse since I was little. I never though of myself as the one at fault, but it's affected me quite a bit. I had confidence problems for a long time, and I'm somewhat soft-spoken that some people ask me to speak up.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear all this, Adam. That is terrible about your family member. Sometimes people within our own circle can be the worst. I hope that you have moved on from this. Emotional abuse is a terrible thing to experience.

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